60% of sex assault victims know attacker

SIX in every 10 victims who attended sexual assault treatment units last year knew their attackers.

The six sexual assault treatment units (SATUs) in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Mullingar, Galway and Letterkenny saw 529 patients last year, the vast majority of whom were women.

Over half of the victims reported that they had consumed more than four units of alcohol in the 12 hours prior to being sexually assaulted.

Launching the report, Health Minister Mary Harney admitted its findings were a concern, but said: “It is reassuring to know that victims of sexual assault can now access forensic clinical examinations, as well as more holistic physiological and psychological follow-up care delivered by the highly trained specialist nurses and midwives.”

The report found that the average age of patients was 24, with the youngest victim aged 13, while the oldest was 80 years old.

Seven in 10 cases of sexual assault occurred between 9pm and 9am.

Dr Maeve Eogan, medical director of the SATU at the Rotunda Hospital, said services had developed in recent years, giving patients not only medical, forensic care and crisis intervention, but links to longer-term support like counselling.

Dr Eogan said: “The SATUs can now offer preventative treatment for sexually transmitted infection to all patients and are also providing care for men and women who may not want to report an incident to An Garda Síochána.”

The research also recorded details on the victims, the alleged sexual crime and the assailants.

* 500 (94.5%) patients were women and 29 (5.5%) were men.

* 464 (87%) reported sexual assaults within 7 days.

* Seven (1.3%) were long-term abuse cases.

* Three (0.6%) women disclosed forced prostitution.

The report, for the first full year of operation at the six units, details each assault individually.

In the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, 315 patients attended the SATU there. August was the busiest month for victims attending, while Sunday was the busiest day. Up to 15% of victims treated there were male as opposed to 5% across the six units.

In Cork, 190 patients attended the SATU unit at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital. Among the victims, 32% were employed, 29% unemployed while 20% were third-levels students and 11% were schoolgirls.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland welcomed the report and funding for SATU services. The support network expressed concern though about the unit in Donegal, warning that cuts there to its work could lead to queues for counselling services.

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